Here Are Some India’s Least Favorite Spices; Check Them Out
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Indians seem to have a natural connection to spices. This is not just a partiality towards spicy food, but more of a 'mystical' ability to blend and use spices. We just 'get' it (or so we'd like to believe). When one talks about Indian food, we conjure up images of spicy, fierce looking chillies used liberally and indiscriminately in our preparations. But just as a coin has two faces, there is a complementary side to each spice that is not known to all, and when used correctly, they can have untold health and wellness benefits. It’s a science, culture, tradition, health, and wellness platform. Variety is the spice of life, and spice is the flavor of cuisines, especially the vast array of Indian cuisines. 

The Guinness World Record holder (2022) for eating the world’s spiciest chillies, Carolina Reaper chillies, was not an Indian but a California resident named Gregory Foster. Funnily enough, this "world's most spicy pepper" has its origin in California, U.S.A. Chilies themselves are not of Indian but Mexican origin and are now cultivated everywhere around the world. Indians, on the other hand, have outdone themselves in their reception and adoption of this hot as dynamite berry. Not all chillies are hot though. Some varieties are sweet and can be tossed in a fresh salad. India boasts of using as many as forty spices in its food and cuisine. For a novice, India's ancient and traditional recipes use spices in combinations and ways that appear to be rocket science.

It also leads to comical situations. Exposure to world cuisines, particularly western preparations, makes the younger generations roll their eyes in dismay and profess their dislike for the "chilies." These very same young ones will be spotted liberally drizzling chili flakes onto their hot pizzas and making short shrift of their servings. It is the same with garlic. They will gag over garlic but relish hot garlic bread slices with their pasta dishes. How can we forget Saunf? While most will pass it off in its natural form, few can resist chewing a small helping of sugar coated saunf as a breath freshener after a hearty meal.  

There are about forty spices that are used in India. Curries, daals, sabzi, soups, snacks, finger foods, the notoriously tasty kebabs, and fried chicken all use spices in their fixed proportions. Most people have a love-hate call on chillies and pepper. It seems like the adage "united we stand, divided we fall" is somehow apt for the Indian spices. Who can stomach the fiery chillies, hot black pepper, the astringent jeera, the bitter Methi seeds, the strong flavoredajowain by themselves? But use them in the combinations handed down to us by traditional recipes, and we can create heavenly food in the comfort of our humble kitchens. 


If there is one spice that Indians both like and dislike, it is... the chili. It’s a conundrum, a with-or-without-you situation. We may keep away from using chillies successfully for a few days, but sooner than later we will be pathetically miserable not having tucked into our spicy cutlets, samosas, kebabs, grilled chicken and lamb, paneer, aloo tiki, etc. Indian cuisine has an endless array of preparations. Some of them can put western preparations to shame with their mild and bland tastes. Younger generations prefer ready-to-cook, pre-marinated food purchased from store shelves or delivered by food delivery apps. Watch them as they pick out the bay leaves, the curry leaves, the odd stick of cinnamon, the star anise, the cloves, the peppercorns, and even the mustard grains and decorate their plates unconsciously. It’s an automatic art form in a way. We scoff at fresh coriander or mint leaves garnished in our Sambhar and butter milk, but we adore them in our coolers, smoothies, cocktails, and sodas served with aplomb at fancy eateries, cocktail bars, or modern cool eating out places, bars, and restaurants. How we contradict ourselves so beautifully! We took the chilli from the westerners, loved it, suffered it, can't do without it. What a funny spice, and what a funny people. 

How can we not speak of turmeric when addressing Indian cuisines? It’s the queen of our kitchens and colors most of our preparations. Yet, it must be the topper on the dislike list until the west discovered it for us. Turmeric in smoothies?! Then, we had to fight for our claim to it and produce ancient knowledge sources to support the claims in order to retain turmeric as an Indian spice ingredient. Turmeric is now accepted as a wonder spice with medical, wellness, and antiseptic properties besides being indispensable in our curries, pastes and marinades.